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Retro Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5 (Volume 2)

by Dan Gehen

In TMNT #5, there’s a big problem lurking under New York City. A. Big. Problem. And unfortunately, it has Leonardo in its sights, while his brothers are unaware of the trouble he faces.

Retro Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5 (Volume 2)

(W/A) Jim Lawson, (I) Eric Talbot, (C) Eric Vincent

The end of TMNT #4 saw the series finally pick up, delivering the thrills and action fans expect out of the Ninja Turtles. Turns out, it was just an appetizer for the main course that is Issue #5, which sees writer/artist Jim Lawson strike the perfect balance between campiness and gravity. The result is an issue of TMNT Vol.2 which truly feels like a Ninja Turtles comic, if for no other reason than the Turtles needing to come together to come out on top.

Before diving into the issue’s strengths, let’s take a moment to get the weaknesses out of the way (luckily, there are few). Even though this feels like a big reunion of sorts, Donatello’s absence casts a pall over an otherwise excellent issue. While narratively, it is logical for him not to be present, that is still on Lawson for plotting himself into such a corner. On a more technical side, Lawson’s artwork isn’t as consistent or technically sound as it normally is, with the frenzied action causing the occasional slip on both his part and that of colorist Eric Vincent. Thankfully those slips are few and far between.

Aside from the faults just mentioned, this issue is a blast. Leonardo being chased (and chasing) a weird fish-monster through the New York City sewer system alternates between suspenseful horror and slapstick comedy. Even more importantly, it works. This is more than simply Lawson undercutting tension with a brief moment of levity, but complete tonal shifts which work largely thanks to the artwork. The polished artwork of Big Two house-style would not only be off-putting, but it would also eliminate the reader’s ability to buy into the tonal shifts. However, Lawson’s blocky style, Eric Talbot’s crude, thick inking, and Vincent’s flat coloring give the book a warmth that invites readers to leave their preconceptions behind.

Beyond that the character interactions are fantastic. From the start of this series, readers can see a progression in Lawson’s writing as he becomes more comfortable with these characters. When the scene calls for levity, such as when Casey, Raph, and Mikey are putzing around Leo’s new home, Lawson injects playful, brotherly banter. When a more stern scenario is called for, such as in the issue’s final pages, he manages to deliver that too.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5 marks a true turning point in Jim Lawson’s development as an all-around storyteller. From start to finish, this issue is a complete package containing moments of action, comedy, and horror. And the stinger at the end featuring everyone’s favorite mad scientist just makes you want to dive into Issue #6.

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